Makaton - Not Just a Buzzword

What is Makaton? It's a word we hear a lot in early years and use in many of our nurseries, but what is it all about?

Makaton is a type of signing language that's based on the original British Sign Language but is used in conjunction with speech using signs (gestures) and symbols (pictures) to help people communicate. Over 100,000 children and adults currently use Makaton, either as their main method of communication or as a way to support speech.

How do I Learn Makaton?

Makaton is recommended for children, parents, family members, teachers, and carers alike. In short, the more people who know Makaton, the more it is possible to help those with communication difficulties. 

There are a variety of virtual courses available from the Makaton charity, however, they also provide a range of free learning resources, covering many of the core tools that children will need, including:

  • Basic vocabulary for health, animals, food, places, events, special days, religion and festivals and wordlists
  • Activities and games on topics including special days, people and characters, life skills, food, transport and nature
  • Songs and stories

6 Top Tips for Learning Makaton

If you are keen to learn Makaton, take a look at our six top tips below:

  1. Keep it Simple - As you begin your Makaton journey, it can be a good idea to start simple and prioritise the core signs that will get used often. This will help embed basic knowledge to support you to build on your number of signs from there.
  1. Make it Fun! - Learning Makaton can be enjoyable for both adults and children. Sign of the Week and CBeebies 'Something Special' with Mr Tumble can help your family learn fun words as well as practical ones.
  1. Look out for Sing and Sign Classes - Sing and Sign classes are held across the country, with over 900 currently across the UK. These classes can be amazing to attend with your baby, as they can encourage children to communicate signs such as when they want more food or are tired.
  1. Learn Songs - There are lots of songs available with Makaton signs, which helps with repetition and learning. Singing Hands have plenty of resources that use signing with music, songs, games and activities to help develop communication.
  1. Incorporate Body Language - Using body language and facial expressions in conjunction with signing can support comprehension, making it easier for those around you to understand what message you are conveying.
  1. Use It or Lose It! - Like anything, if you don't practice and use signs and symbols every day then you can forget them and how to use them - consistency is key when it comes to improving your Makaton signing skills.

Useful Resources

*Please note that this list is general signposting and is not a specific endorsement or recommendation by Bright Horizons. Should you utilise or download any of these resources, any exchange of data is solely between you and that provider - please note that these resources may be subject to their own terms and conditions and/or privacy notice. As Bright Horizons has no control of the contents of the external resources, it can assume no responsibility or liability for these resources or the provider's use of any data you share with them.